World Oil’s 1958 Middle East Oil Map
World Oil’s iconic map of the Middle Eastern Petroleum Concessions and Infrastructure.
This rare and exciting map of the Middle East, produced during the apex of the first real oil boom in that region, was published by the Gulf Publishing Company out of Houston as a supplement to the ‘International Outlook’ issue of their leading industry journal, World Oil (issued in August 1958).
The primary goal of this map was to provide an overview of the many exploration and extraction initiatives established throughout the Middle East in recent years. Since the end of the Second World War and the independence of most countries in the Middle East, international interest in oil as a natural resource had exploded. With independence, the region had, in many ways, been reborn, and the discovery of large pockets of oil ushered in a new era in the region.
The map essentially shows the greater Middle East, stretching from the Sinai Peninsula in the west to Iran and the Caspian Sea in the east and from the oil fields of Southeastern Anatolia (Turkey) to Oman at the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula. It includes the entire Persian or Arabian Gulf, from Kuwait to the Strait of Hormuz, which not only constituted an essential locus for extraction and refinery but also was the main avenue by which Middle Eastern oil was shared with the rest of the world at this stage).
In the lower right corner of the map, we find an inset of the Arabian Peninsula’s southwest quadrant. While most of this region constitutes the conflict-ridden Yemen of today, back in the 1950s, this area was subdivided into protectorates, of which the Aden Protectorate was the most important. Greater Yemen never enjoyed the same natural resources as the rest of the Peninsula. However, Aden had been an important center of trade on the Indian Ocean for centuries at this stage. The inset also shows a significant part of the so-called Empty Quarter (Rub al-Khali).
This chart depicts the infrastructure associated with oil extraction and refining. Thus we see all the features associated with the oil industry drawn onto the map in bright red, including swathes of red signifying oil fields and thick red lines indicating major pipelines. Short but even thicker lines intersecting the pipelines at regular intervals indicate pumping stations along the way. In contrast, red stars indicate the crucial coastal refineries that convert crude petroleum to oil. The dashed lines surrounding many active extraction areas are meant to define the overall boundaries of each concession.
Interestingly, the map includes finely dotted red striations representing gas pipelines. In 1958, gas was still a nascent industry. However, over the coming decades, natural gas deposits in the Gulf would significantly impact the world’s energy supply, not to mention the economies of the countries supplying it. The only non-oil details on the map included in the explanatory legend under the title are the region’s towns, which are marked simply with a black dot.
The rendering of oil infrastructure in red quickly allows one to determine that the highest level of activity is found along the eastern flank of the Arabian Peninsula and in the northern and southern parts of Iraq. These are of course well-known oil regions even today. In Iraq we are talking about an early development of the Kirkuk oil fields, made famous by Saddam Hussein’s control of them during the Gulf Wars. In the south, at the head fo the Gulf, we find the tiny emirate of Kuwait that would make fortunes signing off oil concessions to Aminoil, one of the American Companies that had won long-term drilling rights after WW2. In this case, the emirate of Kuwait signed over the rights to the Americans for a period of 60 years.
The majority of the active concessions are nevertheless found within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia, especially along its eastern flank and out towards the Gulf. These concessions are held and operated by the joint Arab-American oil company ARAMCO, which was given the rights to most of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves by royal decree in 1933. The map nevertheless also shows what one might deem minor concessions, underlining that the scramble for Middle Eastern oil was a truly international phenomenon. The representation of smaller oil companies includes concessions held by Sirip (Société Irano-Italienne des Pétroles), Kuwait Oil, and Japan Petroleum.
The OCLC lists 16 institutional libraries that hold a copy of this map (no. 12428155). While most of them are in the US, the list also includes major institutions such as Oxford University (no. 903080899). Separately listed editions of the map are found in the Boston Public Library, the University of Arizona (no. 137384087), and at the University of Utrecht in Holland (no. 920136128).
We have only found a single listing of this map on the open market.
Good. Wear along fold lines. Fraying and small tears in the margins. Smudge at the bottom of the centerfold. Some handwritten annotations.